The following history of
was taken from a manuscript on file
in the Brigham City, UT, city library.
The grammar, spelling and syntax have
generally been preserved. His life should
provide an excellent model for his progeny.
Sketch of the life of
WILLIAM DAVIS, first pioneer and Bishop of Box Elder, was born the 12th day of September 1795 in Union Township, County of Westmoreland, and Pennsylvania.
He was the son of David Davis and Elinor Black. His father was born on the 28th day of March 1767, in Union, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania. He came of sturdy stock. The Davis families were early settlers in the United States; a branch of the family resided in Chester County, Pennsylvania as early as the year 1696.
It is a tradition in the family that the first members came from England with the Pilgrim Fathers, and settled in Holland—afterwards emigrating (sic) to America, and from this sturdy ancestry the Davis family of America sprang.
Be that as it may, it is certain, they took active part in the early struggles of the Revolutionary Fathers, for freedom and liberty, and that wherever they have colonized they have shown that courage, endurance and love of truth and honor, which been characteristic of the best traits of American life.
William Davis saw the light of day at a very momentous time. It is interesting to consider that he was born during the second term of George Washington, the first president of the United Sates so that his entrance into mortality marked the early days of this country’s history. Not more than twelve years had elapsed since the end of the Revolutionary War and Treaty of Peace between the United States and England. The United States’ Constitution had been adopted and the inauguration of George Washington followed on the 30th day of April 1789, as the first president. The nation was just six years of age when William Davis was born.
Of the early life of Brother Davis, not much is known, save that he was trained to earn his bread by the sweat of his brow. He mastered the trade of a Blacksmith, and learned to till the earth and became a farmer. From his parents he imbibed those principles of honor, honesty and manhood, which made him a man beloved and trusted.
Life was simple in those early days, educational facilities were meager and limited. During the youth of William Davis, the tide of immigration was pushing from the cities of the east towards the untilled, unbroken land of the west. The country was then, with the exception of a strip along the Atlantic, covered with a heavy growth of timber, and the farmers were busy removing this as they had need of the land. In this arduous toil the growing children would help, and then become inured to labor and hardship, as they learned to subdue the soil—only by hard work could the bare necessities of life be obtained—few were the luxuries, simple the life of the people. And yet this life had its compensations—labor developed endurance, toil brought independence, self-reliance and the outdoor life gave strength to mind and body and trained a noble class of citizens.
Thus William Davis grew to be a stalwart man of fine personality, standing nearly six feet in height, powerfully built, of great endurance and muscular power. In disposition he was easy, jovial and good natured and humble as a child, full of charity and forgiveness to the erring, possessed of a mighty faith and patience. These traits endeared him to all with whom he came in contact.
At the age of twenty-seven years, he met and fell in love with a lovely and most estimable young lady, by the name of Sarah McKee, and they were united in marriage September 3rd, 1822. She was then about twenty-three years of age, being born September 22, 1799. She was a true, faithful wife, a noble mother, a true helpmate in the fullest sense of the word. She was a skillful nurse, and acquired a wonderful reputation for her help in all kinds of sickness. Although slight in build, she had great strength of endurance, and in later years was known throughout Northern Utah as Grandma Davis or Doctor Davis, and endeared herself to the saints by her noble labors as nurse and midwife, in caring for their loved ones.
Ten children were born of this union, seven sons and three daughters, as follows:
Ten happy years had passed together when a great change came into their lives. The gospel of the Last Dispensation had been restored; a great Prophet had been raised up and in due course of time, the ears of William Davis and his wife, Sarah, were saluted with the glad message of truth.
For them, to hear was to obey, for they were honest in their souls, and highly spiritual in their nature. So in the month of December, in the year 1833, just two years after the church had been organized, Brother Davis and his beloved wife, bowed to the Father’s will and were baptized by Elder Simeon Carter, for the remission of their sins, and became members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
As might be expected, the month of December was exceedingly cold, and it was necessary to break the ice on the stream, in order to perform the ordinance of baptism. Great joy and rejoicing now filled their souls. They received great testimonies of the truth and with their fellow religionists, enjoyed the gifts and blessings of the restored gospel. The spirit of gathering now came upon them, and parting with their worldly possessions, and all their former friends and neighbors, they gathered to the bosom of the church, and joined the little faithful flock under the Presidency of Joseph Smith, the Latter-day Prophet.
The Saints, at this time, had gathered out from western New York and were settling in Ohio, and the land was purchased there for the Saints. They built Kirtland into a beautiful city, adorned with a Temple of the Living God. They also settled in the state of Missouri, and made thriving settlements there, which aroused the envy and jealousy of Missourians. Later when driven by persecution and mob violence from Missouri they sought refuge in the state of Illinois, and built up the beautiful city of Nauvoo, with its magnificent Temple.
Brother William Davis and his devoted wife and family became intimately acquainted with the Prophet Joseph Smith and family, with his brother, Hyrum and with Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, Wilford Woodruff, Orson and Parley Pratt and other leading men of the Church. He labored at his calling as a blacksmith, was a very useful man in the community, enjoyed the full confidence of the Priesthood and the people, and was ever active in every effort to build up Zion, and to establish the Kingdom of God upon the earth. He possessed a sturdy faith which was unquenchable, he knew beyond a doubt that the work of God is true, that God has indeed established His Church in these last days, never to be thrown or given to another people. To the cause of truth, he and his beloved wife were ever true and faithful, although part of his family went to California, but were never excommunicated.
As opposition to the work of the Lord among unbelieving, and persecution raised its terrible arm, he, with the rest of the Saints suffered again and again for their faith. Time after time after building up a prosperous business and establishing comfortable homes for their families, they were forced to vacate it and leave all their earthly possessions to the mob; feeling lucky indeed to escape with their lives and their loved ones.
There were times of real trial, they were testing days of God. Persecution from outside the church was bad enough, but as time passed, apostates arose, for who had once enjoyed the light of truth, utterly disregarding their sacred covenants, became open and avowed enemies of the church, enounced Joseph Smith as a fallen prophet; and joined with “outsiders” in robbing and persecuting those who still remained true to their religion. This was extremely hard to bear, for the efforts of traitors from the inside is always harder to cope with than the enemy from without. Many of these apostates tried to win Brother Davis from his allegiance to God and his brethren, but without success. He had, by his jovial kindness, made many friends among those not of his faith, and these, too, tried hard to get him to forsake his religion, and live amongst them. They reasoned with him that it was foolish for him to endure persecution, and lose his all, time after time, for a mere fanatical religion, and to follow vainly a false prophet. How much had they argued, to give up Mormonism, and enjoy peace and prosperity, free from molestation. As an instance of the efforts to get him to renounce his religion and leave the church, the following will suffice: Upon one occasion of a particularly violent mob attack, the leaders of this mob sent a lady ahead to interview Brother Davis; she came into the home in a friendly spirit, crying, “Good news! Good news! Mr. Davis!” “Well”, said Brother Davis, “tell me the good news you bring.” “Oh,” she replied, “the mob is coming, well ready to drive the Mormons out, but they sent me to tell you not to be afraid, you will be unmolested, and all you have to do is to burn the Book of Mormon and declare that Joseph Smith is a fallen prophet, and you will escape!” “Well”, said Brother Davis, “the mob can have my answer when they come.” It meant another driving, another home lost, and persecution, but William Davis was learning as all the Saints learned, the truth of the Savior’s saying: “That he who is faithful, must suffer persecution.”: He had already had experiences with mobs, so hastily gathering up such food and clothing as could be fit into a wagon, with his family; he lost his home and all his possessions to the mob, not would he ever see it again. That night he tried to put as much distance between himself and his persecutors as he could, he had mishaps, and to make the matter worse, his beloved wife, Sarah, was taken very sick, and so they had to pass the night as best they could, and resume their journey to the wilderness in the morning. As they traveled on they came across the forsaken camp of their enemies, which had recently been deserted, for the embers of the campfire were yet bright and burning. It was then that Brother Davis and his family could thank their Heavenly Father for his delivering hand over the, for if they had not been delayed by accident and sickness they would have run right into the camp of the enemies! Truly God works in a mysterious way His wonders to perform! Upon occasions without number, both in ancient and modern times, has His divine Power been extended in help and deliverance to His chosen people.
He soon came upon other refugees of Zion fleeing for protection and found refuge with them in the Stat of Illinois. Here the Saints for a time found refuge from the cruel mobocrats of Missouri. But they were not for long to remain unmolested. Enemies from within and without the church had banded themselves together to encompass the death of the prophet. They denounced him a fallen prophet; they took council with mob leaders to deliver him into their hands. It was a time of test and trial, perhaps more severe than has any since befallen the Latter-day Saints. It tested the faithful to the core, but their faith and purity, like pure gold, grew brighter by the fiery furnace of affliction, while those who by sin had lost the spirit of the gospel, or who had been insincere in the first place showed their true colors and joined with the enemy against the Priesthood of God.
In this time of darkness and persecution, none were more true to the Prophet and the leaders, than Brother Davis. In season and out of season, he bore testimony to the truth, and by word and deed manifested his loyalty to the truth and to the men God had chosen to lead His chosen Israel in these latter days. During these times of trouble it was particularly gratifying to the faithful Saints to meet with the Prophet Joseph and listen to the words of inspiration, which fell from his lips. It seemed to them, as the end drew near and the time closer, when the grave for a time should hide that noble form, that a special and peculiar inspiration rested jupon this chosen man, and the Saints remember to this day many of the utterances and treasure them as unfulfilled prophecies.
Brother Davis was present upon one occasion when the Prophet was speaking of the government of the United States, when he made this remarkable prediction: “That the Constitution of the United States will yet hang, as it were by a thread, on a pivot, when it could turn either way, by the slightest touch, and the attempts would yet be made to destroy the Constitution—then at this crisis, when the nation itself was threatened, God would do something to save the nation and deliver His people.” Momentous words, indeed! That time will surely come, every student of the “Signs of the Times” feels assured.
On January 10, 1844, William Davis received a Patriarchal blessing under the hands of Hyrum Smith, the Patriarch. It was a wonderful blessing, and highly treasured by our brother, not only for its comfort and promises, but from the additional fact, that within seven months after he gave it, he [Hyrum] cheerfully laid down his life for the gospel’s sake, being shot to death in Carthage jail with his brother, Joseph, for the word of God and his testimony of Jesus. From the time this blessing was given until the final tragedy at his age, persecution increased against the Saints and the powers of earth and hell combined to destroy the Church of Christ from the earth.
Under the plighted faith of Governor Ford of Illinois, for his safety, the Prophet Joseph delivered himself up to the unjust indictments of his foes; and his brother, Hyrum, shared the prison with him. John Taylor, and Willard Richards, of their own accord, accompanied him to prison. And on June 27, 1844 at the hands of a brutal mob with blackened faces led by a sectarian minister, the Prophet Joseph and his brother, Hyrum, were shot to death, and fell martyrs to the truth, and as witnesses to the New and Everlasting Covenants, which God had restored through their instrumentality.
It was a time of grief and consternation with the Saints. The beloved leader and Prophet and the kindly Patriarch were stilled in death’s embrace. Never again in this mortal life should the Saints hear their inspired words; their testimony was now sealed by blood and remained in full force to all the world.
After the death of the Prophet, Sidney Rigdon, who for a long time had been indifferent to the work of the God, now came forward with the claim to be the guardian of the Church and to build it up unto Joseph. The brethren who now remained in charge, purposely delayed acting upon Sidney’s claim until the Twelve should return from their various missions. At the memorable meeting at which Sidney Rigdon urged his right and claim to the leadership of the Church, Brother William Davis was present and with the great congregation of assembled Saints, saw the mantle of Joseph fall upon Brigham Young. It was a most powerful demonstration of the power of God. For the Saints saw the form, the very countenance of Joseph, heard his very voice, through Brigham young—there was no room for doubt—all Israel knew positively that the Twelve held the Keys of the Kingdom, with Brigham Young at the head, it was brought about by the mercy and goodness of the God of Israel. It settled forever the question of true leadership—from that moment on faithful Saints looked to Brigham Young for leadership.
The vile assassins of Joseph and Hyrum were filled with fear after their cowardly deed lest the Saints should rise up against them and inflict summary vengeance. But better counsels prevailed; the Saints left judgment in the hands of Him who in the future day should judge both the quick and the dead. One great duty remained, incumbent upon them, they had to finish the Nauvoo Temple, that they might receive their blessings and endowments therein, and the word of Joseph be fulfilled. Here in this sacred building, hving to work almost with a trowel in one hand and a sword in the other, the sacred edifice was far completed, that many of the faithful received their blessings and endowments therein. It is noteworthy, that no matter what dangers confront the Church of Christ, whether in poverty, persecution or death, the work of salvation for the living and the dead has steadily gone on. This, of itself, is a mighty testimony of the truth of the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ.
But, the words of Joseph were about to be fulfilled, in which he said that the wicked would be aroused and fight to the death, everyone in whose bosom there was the testimony of Jesus Christ, and so it proved. Not content with their bloody massacres, the mobocrats stirred up the people of Illinois so effectively, that nothing but their expulsion from their lands and homes, their hard toil had redeemed from the desert would satisfy these fiends in human form.
Under President Young, companies were organized for the “Westward Move” fulfilling the prediction of Joseph, that the Saints of God would eventually become a mighty people in the midst of the Rocky Mountains. Of the sufferings of the Saints, their trials, poverty and hardships suffered at the hands of the persecutors, we cannot now speak. Suffice it to say that William Davis, his wife and beloved family who had been born to them, between the time Joseph received his first vision of the Angel Moroni and the martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum, he had been blessed with a family of ten children, some of whom had died in infancy. Since his conversion to the Gospel in the year 1832, he and his family had been driven with the Saints time and time again from their homes for the Gospel’s sake. Now he prepared for the “Great Westward Move” and in the year 1848, joined the company of Apostle Lorenzo Snow, in the journey across the plains to the valley of the Great Salt Lake. At that time a thousand miles of wild prairie and wilderness separated the East from the Rocky Mountain Valleys. It was a wild primeval desert, inhabited only by roving Indians and wild animals. Progress by wagon and team, or oxen, was slow, food was limited, and only souls of sturdy faith and trust in God could set their faces westward against such great odds.
But the camps of Israel moved onward; through all the dangers, the hand of God guided the Saints and although many dear ones were left by the wayside, weary and tired, to the sleep of the Just, the Saints with true devotion sang: “And should we die before our journey’s through, All is Well, All is well!”
What can daunt such faith as this? History may be searched for nobler examples of faith, sacrifice and suffering for principle, than were shown by the Saints in the journey through the wilderness to a land of freedom.
In due time William Davis reached the valley of the Great Salt Lake as it was known in those days. Here he took part with his brethren in active labor and effort to redeem the wilderness and make it habitable. He met Presidents and leaders and was one with them in all their efforts to redeem the wilderness, to extend the colonies of the Saints and to take up the land and redeem it. In the year 1849 he had explored the country north of Salt Lake City, coming as far as what is now known as Brigham City.
The following year of 1850, he was duly called by the authority of President Brigham Young to settle and be the first pioneer in the Indian Country we now dignify by the name of Brigham City. The fall of that year found him busily engaged with some others in felling trees and erecting log cabins for homes, in preparation for his family to move into. The first log cabins for habitation in Brigham City were located near the spot occupied by Joseph Burt, in the Third Ward in the northwest part of the present city. Then the cover was a parched and desolate wilderness, with no intimation of the beautiful homes and cultivated orchards and gardens which now grace our fair city. In the following spring he moved with his family and some other pioneers to the site of Brigham City, arriving there on March 11, 1851. The families of George Hemson and Simeon Carter were also among the first settlers of this city.
This then, is a date to remember, that the first white man in this last Dispensation made a settlement in this northern desert on the 11th of March 1851; from this moment the history of Brigham City begins. To Brother William Davis and these early pioneers belongs the credit of pioneering this western desert and erecting the first houses for white men in Brigham City. They were poor, they had been tested and driven by mobs, and robbed and despoiled of all their possessions, their tools and implements were crude and scanty. Their food was wrested with great difficulty from an almost sterile soil. The wild Indians and wilder nature were their constant foe, danger menaced them from without, but in their hearts they knew no fear. They were brave men subduing the desert with an implicit faith in that God whose servants they were, and a determination to remain here and subdue the desert, and fulfill the mission to which they had been called by Divine Authority. At the time of which we speak, this locality was embraced in the jurisdiction of the Weber Stake of which Lorin Farr was President.
The name “Box Elder” was given to this particular country because of the large number of these trees growing by the water courses and creeks. So on the 31st day of April 1852, William Davis was duly set apart and ordained to the office of Bishop of Box Elder Ward of the Weber Stake of Zion by Lorin Farr, President. To this calling Brother Davis was faithful and diligent until the 7th day of April 1855, when he was honorably released by President Lorenzo Snow. At the time Brother Davis was set apart for the Bishopric, he was given as his two councilors, Jonathan C. Wright and William S. Phillips, two very worthy men of great faith and integrity. This then constituted the first Bishopric in this northern frontier settlement—for such it was at this time.
Life in the Fort First Meetng Places First Schoolhouse
Acting under the counsel of President Young, Bishop Davis and his brethren moved from their first location and erected a fort upon or near the site of the present Lincoln School in the Third Ward. Here the settlers lived together for protection from the Indians. In the fort loop, holes were made so that in case of attack by Indians, rifles could be discharged at the foe through the apertures. The first meetings for religious worship were held in the log house of Bishop Davis. Later a log schoolhouse was erected in the Fort and on the Sabbath the sacrament meetings were held in it.
At the time Box Elder was first settled, it was regarded as dangerous Indian territory, but Bishop Davis followed William Penn’s advice of feeding the Indians instead of fighting them—a policy taught and impressed also by the wisdom of President Brigham Young, and by following this maxim Bishop Davis won the hearts of the red men and they were ever his friends. They used to call him “The Captain” and he was always able to get along with them except when they were on the warpath.
Community life in Box Elder began in the “Old Fort”, from this time. Sacrament and meetings for public worship began. It was the commencement of the first education effort also—the day school being held in the log schoolhouse.
Life was very simple and primitive among the early pioneers. A thousand miles of desert and plains separated them from civilization in the East. Across this trackless expanse, and merchandise had to be freighted by team, and hardy men, who took their lives in their hands in braving the dangers of the desert and the scalping knife of the Red Men. There was no such thing as a daily or weekly newspaper, the pony express was the only means of getting information or mail from the East or overseas. The stagecoach was the speediest way of passenger travel. Matches were scarce, the flint steel and tinder rag were their way often in vogue then to make a fire. Tools and instruments of husbandry were few and crude. Grain was cut with the old fashioned “cradle” and grass was mown down by the scythe. Electricity as applied to lighting, or even the common oil lamp were unknown. The best means of lighting was the common candle or brushlight, each household making their own. Many in the beginning used a cup or saucer filled with grease, with a rag for a wick—this crude lamp was much used by the early pioneers.
The early houses were constructed of logs, often with a dirt floor and roof, which stormy weather frequently leaked and made the bedding wet and uncomfortable. Few possessed cook stoves, so the open fire place, filled with burning logs, was the common place of cooking. Here the family gathered around the blazing fire in the late fall and long winter evenings singing their songs and hymns, and recounting their many strange experiences or bearing testimony to the truth of the marvelous work which God had again revealed to the Latter-day Saints.
Each household was a center of activity—women learned to card wool and spin and weave the material into cloth for the family’s clothing. The men and boys were busily employed in cutting logs for buildings and fuel and fencing their little holdings. The land must be cleared of brush and rocks and plowed and harrowed and sowed. The cattle and sheep must be carefully herded and carefully watched. In a word, a desert must be converted into a fruitful land. Bridges must be built, roads made to canyons and from settlement to settlement. These arduous labors kept the pioneers busy from early morn till eve—but at least they were free from mobs. Their toil and hardships were severe, but they enjoyed freedom and liberty in their mountain home—they could worship God unmolested and unrestrained. Nor was recreation neglected—the Saints were a happy, cheerful people—their religion was a practical one. It did not forbid proper and innocent enjoyment—so the merry dance went on, where young and old met together and danced till the wee small hours of the dawn, and many a youthful romance ripened into happy marriage, commenced at these early pioneer dances.
The meetinghouse and the schoolhouse were the common gathering places for the people and here commenced the civic life of the pioneers. They governed themselves, they respected the rights of others; life and property were safe. Around the hearthstone the little families would gather for instructions, hear their Elders recount how they came into the Church, and listen to their marvelous testimonies, then all would bow before the Father of All in humble prayer, seeking such blessings as they needed for their daily support.
Bishop Davis was a busy man. He was a blacksmith, and it can readily be seen how his services would be in constant demand in a settlement of pioneers. From early morning until late at night one could hear the music of his anvil, so with sturdy strokes, he shaped the glowing metal into implements of use and husbandry. Nor were his labors confined to the blacksmith shop, he took up the first farming land in Brigham City. His original farm consisted of bout one hundred and sixty acres of land. It included land now occupied by the Idaho-Utah Sugar Company and also the land now owned by David P. Burt. This land, by his industry, was brought under cultivation, fenced and redeemed from the desert. Afterwards when Apostle Lorenzo Snow came by appointment to take charge of this northern settlement, with characteristic generosity he gave Brother Snow eighty acres of his land.
Between his labors in the blacksmith shop, on the farm and among his little flock, over whom he had been called to preside in a spiritual way, Bishop Davis was always busily employed, and he grew in the love, respect and esteem of all true Latter-day Saints.
Bishop Davis always kept a house of call and entertainment for travelers passing through to California. It was necessary that some reliable persons undertake this responsibility to care for the strangers within our gates, and to find them food and lodging while here. This Bishop Davis did to the satisfaction of all; his hearty and genial manner won for him at all times the respect and goodwill of all who came in contact with him.
The mission of preaching the Gospel in foreign nations was now beginning to bear fruit. The Gospel seed had been sown in honest hearts, and as a result many of the converts were leaving their native lands and emigrating (sic) to Utah. England, Scandinavia and other lands were yielding up the scattered seed of Israel. These Saints were counseled by President Young to go forth and build up new settlements, take up the land and make homes for themselves. Among those who came to “Box Elder” in the fall of the year 1853 to share the fortunes of the pioneers here, was the Forsgren family, consisting of Peter Adolph Forsgren and his sister Christina Ericka Forsgren, who had been converted to the Gospel in Sweden by the preaching of their brother John Eric Forsgren, who performed a wonderful mission in that land.
Previous to going on a mission, Elder Forsgren had married Sarah Bell Davis, who had lived with her parents, Bishop and Sister Forsgren while her husband was on his mission After his release from his missionary labors Elder John E. Forsgren came to “Box Elder” to meet his wife, bringing his brother Adolph and his sister Christina Ericke with him. As Elder Forsgren introduced his sister, Ericke, to Bishop Davis, he uttered these significant words: “Brother Davis, here is your wife!” He little realized at the time the prophetic nature of his words, but it came true and in the fall of 1853 when they first met, they were favorably impressed with each other and on the 20th day of February 1854, Brother Davis entered into the sacred principle of plural marriage, and was sealed for time and eternity to this faithful woman.
Christina Ericka Forsgren, had been converted to the Gospel in a remarkable manner. Born in Gefle, Sweden, she had been trained in the faith of the Lutheran Church from infancy. As she grew to womanhood, however, she became dissatisfied with this church and prayed the Lord would show her the true path of salvation. One Sabbath Day in church, she had an open vision in which it was made known to her that the Lutheran, or State church, was a man-made church without divine authority, and that God did not acknowledge it. In the same vision she was shown that on a certain day a man would come to her with three books and that all who believed and accepted the things written in those books would be saved. In fulfillment of this vision on the fifth day of July, 1850, Elder John Eric Forsgren, a long lost brother visited her as a missionary of the Mormon Church and preached the gospel to her, making her acquainted with the three books—the Bible, the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants!
Her brother, Adolph, was supposed to be upon his deathbed, ill with tuberculosis and given up to die by the physicians; but by the power of God he was instantly healed upon the administration of his brother, Elder Forsgren. He received the gospel, being baptized on the 26th day of July 1850, being the first man in Sweden to receive the true gospel in this dispensation. Christina Ericka was converted on the fourth day of August and was baptized into the church by her brother, John Eric Forsgren, being the first woman to receive the gospel and be baptized in Scandanavia in the Latter days. She was duly blessed by the Lord with the gift of dreams and visions, many inspired visions she had during her life, having literal fulfillment. Among other visions, she saw in her native land of Gefle, Sweden, a vision of her future husband, and that she would enter into the sacred principle of plural marriage. This had its fulfillment when she met Bishop Davis in the year 1853, for she recognized in him at once, the man shown to her in vision as her husband. Thus does the Father bring his faithful children together and their footsteps in mortality. To her credit, be it said, Sister Christina was ever true and faithful to the sacred principle of plural marriage. She was a true wife and mother, faithful to her husband and to her God, and to every trust in life. She was of a cheerful, noble disposition, ever seeking to help, to do good and to teach faith. Without murmuring she passed through the hardships incident to pioneer life—through the years of famine, of scarcity, of pioneering, rearing a noble family who bears her name in honorable remembrance. She lived to see the rough primitive wilderness bud and blossom as the rose and though at her first coming, the settlers were living together in the “Fort” for protection, she lived to see a beautiful city named in honor of the Prophet Brigham Young, rise out of the desert—the home of a happy and contented people.
To Sister Christina Ericka Forsgren Davis and her husband, William Davis, were born three sons as follows: Abraham Peter Davis, born 11-7-1856, in the “Old Fort” Brigham City; he married Charlotte Van Noy 2-26-1880, and twelve children blessed this union. Oliver Frederick Davis, born 1-2-1859 in the Fourth Ward Brigham City; he married Susannah Pulsipher, September 17, 1884, and six children blessed their union. George William Davis, born 7-15-1861 in Brigham City. He married Eliza R. Watkins on November 11, 1885. No children were born to them. On September 3, 1903 he married Vilate Combs (?), a widow with two children.
Bishop William Davis and his brethren and sisters, who were the first pioneers in Box Elder, struggled hard through poverty and toil to make the first start and lay a true foundation to this northern desert, and against the greatest difficulties their faith never wavered. They had been called here--set apart and appointed by divine authority and they were true to their trust, and it is through the faithful labors and self sacrifice of the worthy pioneers, that we enjoy today the beautiful city and surroundings we now call Brigham City. It takes real faith and courage to blaze the first trail, to build the first homes, to lay the foundations of new cities in the wilderness. It is easier to follow the trail after it has been blazed through the desert, to build when the foundation has once been laid. The progress of this northern frontier and its importance had not escaped the vigilant eye of President Young. He recognized that this was an important country, full of possibilities and rich resources, of agriculture and mineral wealth. He knew that a great community was in the making and that the pioneers needed assistance, so in the year 1854 he called Apostle Lorenzo Snow to take fifty families with him properly equipped for colonizing and to proceed north to Box Elder to build up the community.
Obedient to the call, Lorenzo Snow, with fifty families, came in the spring of the year 1855, to assist in the building up and settlement of Box Elder. Needless to say this “new blood” put new life in the struggling little colony. They took hold of the new work with new life and vigor to redeem the desert and build up the country.
Bishop Davis and the little ward gave the newcomers a hearty welcome and co-operated with them with all their power in building up the community, both in a spiritual and temporal way. Brother Davis had held the office of Bishop of Box Elder from April 7, 1852, when it was a branch of the Weber Stake. He had faithfully fulfilled his calling and appointment, but it was felt that he should be released from this responsibility, so on the 7th day of April 1855, Bishop Davis received an honorable release from the Bishopric.
This same year the town site was laid out and platted and named Brigham City, in honor of President Brigham Young, who had predicted that a mighty city and commonwealth would arise here, and that on the hills just east of the city, a beautiful temple would be erected to the name of the Lord. This prediction was made by Brigham Young to Lorenzo Snow on the eve of his departure from Salt Lake City to Box Elder, and it gave great encouragement to Brother Snow and his brethren.
A new Bishopric was duly appointed and set apart by Apostle Snow. The name Box Elder was changed to Brigham City and Eli Harvey Pierce was chosen as the first Bishop of Brigham City Ward—which at that time took in the whole site of Brigham City. Brother Pierce chose as his counselors, Jonathan C. Wright and William Phillips. Later in the year 1857, Bishop Pierce was released from the Bishopric and Alvin Nichols was appointed and set apart to succeed him as Bishop of Brigham City Ward.
In 1856, the Territorial Legislature of Deseret was in session and duly organized and fixed the boundaries of Box Elder County. The Box Elder Stake was also fully organized and Apostle Snow set apart as the first Stake President with Jonathan C. Wright and Samuel Smith a his counselors. That same year saw the election of the first selected County officers for Box Elder County with Jonathan C. Wright as Probate Judge, and Joseph Rees, Alvin Nichols and D. Harding as Selectmen. Joseph Grover was Sheriff and Eli :Pierce, Assessor and Collector. Lorenzo Snow was returned to the Legislative Council to represent the counties of Box Elder and Heber, in that body.
The Saints now turned their attention to the erection of homes in the platted portion of the city, and moved out of the “Old Fort”, which up to this time had afforded the protection and safety. William Davis occupied a house in the Fourth Ward; he also acquired a home for part of his family on Main Street on the site now occupied by E. W. Dunn.
Work was also commenced on a new Court House. The Saints donated most of the work and labor, and speedily the walls arose and the structure was completed by the united efforts of the pioneers. Religious meetings and Sunday School were held in the Court House for years before any ward chapels were built. The County officers were also housed within the building. Here also the Dramatic Association held forth and the talent of the settlers was called into requisition for the recreation and amusement of the people.
An excellent spirit prevailed amongst the Saints. A union of temporal and spiritual effort was manifest in the organization of the Co-operative Association and the United Order. Many branches of industry and manufacture were started and great success was had in these varied branches of effort. In all these various departments of community life, in every labor, both the spiritual and temporal, Brother Davis and his family were always faithful in every effort for the building up of the city and the establishment of the Kingdom of God. His loyalty was unquestioned; he could always be depended upon. His faithful wives, Sarah and Christina, and their families were one with him in every effort and loyalty and devotion were known and appreciated by the Saints.
During the last fourteen years of his life, Brother Davis suffered a terrible affliction in the loss of his sight. During this long period, the glory and beauty of God’s great outdoors were shut out from his enfeebled vision. With patience and resignation he endured this great affliction without murmuring. Escorted by his faithful wife, he attended religious services and rejoiced in hearing the testimony of Jesus. He had been a very active man; he had seen the community of Box Elder County and his beloved city “Brigham” grow and develop into a beautiful habitation. He had labored and performed his full share in helping to bring these things to pass and in teaching and instructing his family in the gospel and encouraging them in the line and path of duty.
He had been ordained to the office of Patriarch under the hands of Apostle Wilford Woodruff and the spirit of the calling fell upon him. He enjoyed the full confidence of his presiding brethren and the leaders of the Church who had known him and been closely identified with him from his first entrance into the Church in the year 1832.
In the year 1877, President Brigham Young paid a visit to Brigham City, and held a two- day conference of the Stake on the 18sth and 19th days of August. A large bowery had been erected for the occasion on the city “Square” on Forrest Street. At this time Brother Davis had been blind for several years. It is a mark of the thoughtful kindness and consideration of President Young, in appreciation of the life work of “Father Davis”, that seeing his helpless condition, he led him personally upon the stand erected there and placed him in an armchair, and escorted “Grandma Davis” to the side of her husband in another armchair, which had been especially provided. President Young had been well acquainted with “Father Davis” in the old trying days of Kirtland, Missouri and Nauvoo, and honored him for his loyalty and sturdy faithfulness to the gospel. Immediately after this occasion, President Snow had two comfortable upholstered chairs made for Brother and Sister Davis, which were placed in the front row of the upstairs room of the Court House and occupied by these worthy people at the Sacrament meetings held there. Upon the occasion of the conference held in this city as referred to herein, no one dreamed it would be the last visit of the beloved leader.
President Young appeared to be in excellent spirits and good health; he dined with Apostle Lorenzo Snow and after dinner had pleased the brethren by singing with much feeling some of the songs of Zion. He re-organized the Stake of Box Elder upon this occasion. Lorenzo Snow was released as Stake President, and his son, Oliver G. Snow was named as President in his Father’s stead, with Elijah Box as First Councilor and Isaac Smith as Second Councilor. The city of Brigham was at that time divided into four wards. It was afterwards remembered by the Saints that at this conference, President Young seemed unusually inspired as he not only talked of things present and gave much wise council, his mind was lifted up with the things of the future also, and he made predictions of things to come. In fact it was as one of the brethren said afterwards: “It seemed like a wise and loving father giving his last charge and instructions to his children.” Ten days later, on the 29th of August, the great Leader, who like a second Moses had led the Saints through a barren desert to the promised land, passed away to join Joseph and Hyrum and other beloved brethren in the Great Beyond.
The burdens of the years now rested heavily upon Brother Davis. Thirty-three years had passed in the rapid flight of time since his pilgrim feet had first trodden the site of Brigham City. These had been years of toil, hardship and active service to God and his fellow men. He had reared two families and taught them by precept and example to honor and be faithful to His great cause. His wives and children reflected credit to his name.
He had been patient in affliction—loyal to his convictions, faithful to every call and trust. From the time when he had first heard the gospel message, he had never faltered in his testimony—whether in storm or sunshine, in poverty or comfort—his pathway in life had been a steady advance and progress in the cause of truth. In the year 1883, a serious sickness prostrated him, his faithful wives and family administered lovingly to his comfort, but he appeared to be sinking—his life’s force was ebbing away.
On the 21st day of November his son Oliver was impressed to call in the Elders that they might administer to his father. Elder Charles Kelly responded and suggested that Apostle Lorenzo Snow should also be called in. Brother Snow gladly complied and in a remarkable prayer, in behalf of “Father Davis” reviewed the life, labors, sacrifices, struggles with pain, as well as the record of this faithful man. Before leaving the house, he said to Brother Davis: “Brother William, I want you to take this message to the Spirit world—tell Charles Rich and Brother Brigham and all the others, we’ll soon be with them.” The following day, 11-22-1883, Father Davis departed this life to join his brethren in the better land. Apostle Rich had then been dead five days.
The life of Patriarch Davis covered 88 of the most fruitful years of all past time. At his birth this Great Nation was in the sixth year of its National Life; George Washington was in the White House, the colonists occupied a strip of land along the Atlantic seaboard and had barely begun to penetrate the Mississippi Valley. He lived to see the dominion of the Republic extend from ocean to ocean and from the Great Lakes to the Gulf. He saw this nation take its place as the mightiest power of recorded time. His life period marked the unfolding of invention—the triumph of science and industry. More than all, he witnessed the unfolding of the Church of Christ, from its infancy to the time when it triumphed over the mobs and the Saints became a mighty people in the midst of the Rocky Mountains. He gave the years of his manhood—all of them, to the cause of truth and because of it—he being dead, yet speaketh!
Sarah McKee, wife of William Davis passed to her well-earned rest on 2-20-1888, and Christina Ericka, his last wife died on 2-21-1906. All of these—faithful husband, virtuous, loving wives, died faithful to the end. These shall Christ bring again with Him in the Resurrection of the Just!